LACONIA — The owner of the iconic Weirs Drive-In has agreed to sell the 12-acre property for $2.5 million to a businessman who plans condominiums and commercial development.Patricia Baldi, who has owned the outdoor theater since 1974, said the land is more valuable than the business, which is open about 12 weeks a year.
“I’m going to be 79 in one month,” she said Wednesday. “I’ve always worked extremely hard and it’s time to take it easy.
“I had a chance to sell it at a good price and this is the time to sell it.”
Al Mitchell, the buyer, also owns a 1-acre parcel adjacent to the theater and another nine acres on nearby Tower Hill. He said his properties should complement each other and allow for as many as 80 condominium units, an event center, a hotel and other businesses.
“This should start bringing the Weirs up to another level,” he said.
His hope is to create the kind of attractive and successful commercial and tourism community that has taken shape in Meredith, which went through an economic renaissance in the 1980s.
“If I can replicate only a small part of what they did in Meredith, I will be happy,” Mitchell said.
The events center would host entertainment, and receive extensive use for Motorcycle Week activities.
The Weirs Drive-In has been a fixture in the community since it was built in 1948. It was one of the first drive-in movie theaters and is now one of the last few in New Hampshire.
Baldi said there is a certain amount of sadness in selling a property that she bought with her late husband, Lawrence.
“It’s sad, but I can’t go on forever,” she said. “We had a lot of good times. We had wonderful, dedicated customers and that will be the hardest part for me. Hopefully, some good will come of it.”
Mitchell had obtained first right of refusal on purchase of the property, which has been on the market for about a year. When another buyer came forward, Mitchell matched the offer, which included a provision that theater-related equipment is not part of the deal.
Baldi said her son, Larry, will take that equipment and intends to open another drive-in theater elsewhere.
Mayor Ed Engler said Mitchell’s plans for the area present good opportunities for the city.
“I’m excited about the prospect of him owning the property,” Engler said. “He will develop it in a way that is not only appropriate and beneficial to himself but also to the city.”
City Councilor Ava Doyle, who owns a cottage community in the area, said many of her guests were excited that there was a drive-in theater nearby.
“The drive-in has gone the way of many things,” she said. “But it’s exciting that somebody is going to be investing in the Weirs.”
Waterfront, luxury condominiums have been selling well in recent months, including a Christmas Island project where buyers snapped up units in the $600,000 range.
Mitchell said he envisions high-end condominiums and businesses that will make the city proud, including strong architectural elements and attractive features.
“I’m just looking to do a good job up there and basically put something up that a lot of people can enjoy,” he said.